Brown’s Possible Role in Clinton’s Gov. Endorsement


It could be a question for Larry David in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm: Did Bill Clinton endorse Gavin Newsom out of spite?

Clinton visited the Golden State on Monday to make his pick  for California governor official --  although it's been known for weeks that the former president was backing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who provided pit-bull like support of Hillary Clinton during her unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid. 

But Clinton also has a negative history with state Attorney General Jerry Brown, Newsom's key democratic rival. Brown ran against Clinton for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination -- and the campaign turned ugly.

Brown accused Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, of  "funneling money to his wife's law firm for state business."

Clinton responded: "I don't care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping all over my wife. You're not worthy being on the same platform as my wife."

Newsom downplayed that feud in the days after the endorsement was made public, but pundits speculate it continued after Clinton was elected.

No matter the motivation, the San Francisco mayor needs all the help he can get.  Newsom has lagged in both  polls and fund raising efforts in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Brown hasn't even officially announced he's running, but has seven times the money in his campaign coffers compared to Newsom.  He also has the name recognition across the state, having served as governor from 1975 to 1983.

The Newsom campaign hopes Mr. Clinton can help change all that.   The two made a joint appearance at Los Angeles City College Monday afternoon.

Clinton will also host a fundraiser Monday night at the Biltmore Hotel.

Many political insiders see this as a make-or-break week for the San Francisco mayor.

A recent poll by David Binder shows Brown leading Newsom, even among San Franciscans, 51 percent to 34 percent.

Newsom said his low poll numbers were because he doesn't have the name recognition Brown does.

Each of them hopes to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will be termed out of office in November 2010.

One footnote here:  For the first time in decades, no matter who wins the governor's race they will have strong ties to the Bay Area.  All of the candidates are from Northern California.   Brown lives in the Oakland Hills while  Newsom lives in the city. The republican candidates also all live in the Bay Area.

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